Analyzing William Wordsworth’s poem “Strange fits of passion have I known”


Strange fits of passion have I known” is one of five William Wordsworth’s poem discEnglish Country Cottage at Nightussing about the death of a girl named Lucy. This poem was published in 1799 in Germany. The poem appears as the first poem in the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems written by William Wordsworth and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “Strange fits of passion have I known” is famous for its beautiful content which illustrates the melancholic love story of the author; therefore, the purpose of this essay is to further looking and analyzing the poem’s content as well as figure out the message that the poem try to convey.

Before getting into an in-depth analysis of this poem, one should take a close look at form, figurative language devices and rhyme. “Strange fits of passion have I known” is a twenty-eight line, confessional poem. Notably, this poem was written by using a traditional ballad stanza or quantran, a stanza which consists of four lines. The poem is divided into seven stanzas. A stanza is a poem which has certain patterns; it is a group of line forming to make divisions in a poem. Therefore, it can be simply said that the poem consists of six space breaks. The first space break separates lines four and five; whereas, the second space break splits lines eight and nine.  The third space break divides lines twelve and thirteen and the fourth separates line sixteen and seventeen. The fifth and the sixth space break appear as follows: between lines twenty and twenty one; and lines twenty four and twenty five. Interestingly, in the poem, William Wordsworth used several figurative language devices such as similes, and metaphors. Simile, the figurative language device uses to compare to thing by using the word ‘like’ or ‘as,’ is expressed in the first and second line of the second stanza. For example, in lines five and seven of the poem, the author used the phrase “When she I loved looked every day Fresh as a rose in June” (Hess Scott). In this case the word ‘as’ is used to compare the similarity between the beauty of the author’s lover to the rose in June. Besides simile, the author also included metaphor to compare two things as well, but in this case the author did not use either the word such as ‘like’ or ‘as.’ Metaphor was used in the fourth stanzas “And now we reached the orchard-plot; and, as we climbed the hill, The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot Came Near, and nearer still” (13-16). This metaphor compares the sinking moon to the journey that is about to come to an end because the distance of reaching Lucy’s house was shorter and shorter. Aside from figurative language, from the first to the seventh stanza the poem was also constructed using end rhyme (abab rhyme scheme) which always occurs at the end of each line. For instance, in the second stanza, “When she I loved looked every day Fresh as a rose in June, I to her cottage bent my way, Beneath an evening-moon” (5-8), the word “day” rhymes with the word “way;” whereas, the word “June” rhymes with the word “moon.” Another example is the sixth stanza. It illustrates that “My horse moved on; hoof after hoof He raised, and never stopped: When down behind the cottage roof; At once, the bright moon dropped.” (21-24) As can be seen the word “hoof” rhyme with the word “roof,” and the word “stopped” rhyme with the word “dropped.” All in all, the poem was composed by using such a great structure that contains traditional ballad stanzas, figurative languages, and rhymes.

Not only can structure make the poem fascinating, but the meaning of each stanza also can make readers absorb and sympathize the melancholic feeling of the author. The first stanza illustrates the author’s declaration that he had been through strange fits of passion. The author said that he would describe one of his fits, but only in his lover’s ear. The second stanza pinpoints the beauty of his lover. This stanza shows that the author’s journey to his lover’s house started to begin. The third stanza describes scenic scenery on the way to the author’s lover’s house. The author depicts about the beautiful moon and a wide lea and he even shows how passionate he is to visit his lover’s house by quickening his horse. The way that he described his journey can make the readers absorb the sentimental feeling of the author and also know how much the author love his lover. The fourth stanza demonstrates that his journey to his lover’s house was about to come to an end now, just like the sinking moon. This is the only stanza that he authenticated the name of his lover, Lucy, “The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot” (15). The fifth stanza continuously shows the way to Lucy’s house; however, it only exposes the way that the author looked at the moon on the way to Lucy’s cottage. The sixth stanza mysteriously exposes that the moment that he reached Lucy’s cottage was the moment where the bright moon fully sunk. This makes readers realize that something tragic was going to happen. Indeed, the catastrophe happened as indicated in the last stanza. The seventh stanza exposes the secret behind the sinking moon which is about the death of Lucy. The author’s lover had already died already even before the author went to her cottage.

After a long interpretation of each stanza, it can be seen that the poem is about the author’s journey to his lover’s house while he unconsciously forgot that she already died. The poem illustrates the passionate love of the author toward Lucy. The author also indicates his sadness by pulling the relationship between the rider who was the author, the horse and the moon. The readers might not imperceptibly know that there is a relationship between those three things. However, if we circumspectly read the poem, we will realize that the author always depict about the movement of the moon as well as the movement of the horse; therefore, it may make the readers doubt that what is the point of depicting all those things. As the poem is elucidated, the sinking moon was slowly dropping at the same time while the rider was riding on the horse. Generally, it takes time for the moon to sink; however, the moon in the poem seems to sink rapidly. Contemplating on this issue has made readers realize that the moon did not completely sink yet; it just sunk from the author’s perspective. The moom sunk because the shadow of Lucy’s cottage blocked the view of the sinking moon, “When down behind the cottage roof” (24); “It disappears because horse and rider are pulled up in the shadow of Lucy’s cottage” (Dawson, 96). Once the rider quickened the horse, it fast approached Lucy’s cottage, and once it came nearer to Lucy’s cottage, the shadow of the cottage blocked the sinking moon and made the moon disappear. The poem also mentions “And all the while my eyes I kept On the descending moon;” (19-20) these two phrases indicates there is a bond between the author’s feeling and the moon. The author’s feeling in this case refers to his passionate love to Lucy, his desire to meet his lover; however, the moment when the moon disappeared, his desire to meet his lover was eradicated because by that time he was aware that Lucy had already died, and his passionate feeling was transferred into a depressed feeling. All in all, the poem is about the author’s gloomy feeling which depict by the relationship between the moon, the rider and the horse, when he realized that Lucy had died on his way to her house.

According to the analysis above, one can say that the message that the poem tries to convey is about the power of love. When a person loves someone, he or she will do everything or even sacrifice himself or herself to meet him or her lover. The more a person loves someone, the crazier that person can become, because he or she possibly can forget about everything that happens and he or she only focus on one thing which is his or her lover, just like Wordsworth deeply thought about his lover. The poem also delivers a message which is painfulness fearfulness of losing someone or something. Beside the fear, the poem also depicts that without love, humans will feel empty and sad because everybody needs love; everybody needs someone to encourage them to give them strength. Love can bring people happiness. Love can empower people; it can make people become mature and bear with every circumstance for his or her lover. The power of love can make everything possible; it can make people forget everything and it has a great impact on one’s life; hence, love is an essential part of every human being’s life because everyone cannot neglect love and everyone cannot live without love.

To conclude, William Wordsworth’s poem “Strange fits of passion have I known” is one of the romantic poems expressing about the power of love and beautiful of nature. The poem is about the poet’s passionate love and his willing to visit his lover’s house. “Strange fits of passion have I known” gives the reader negative mood, yet soft and romantic because it illustrates the love of the author toward his lover and his passion to meet her. Even though the poem ends by making readers realize that no matter what, the author still could not meet his lover because she had died already. The passionate love from the poet overlaps the sadness feeling of the dead Lucy. The desire of the poet expressed in the poem is extremely romantic and it is overweight all sadness in the poem because the readers will definitely get the sense of love that the author have toward Lucy.







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Work Cited

Dawson, William P.. “The Perceptual Bond in “Strange Fits of Passion”.” The Wordsworth         circle 13.2 (1982): 96-97. Web. 29 March 2016

Hess Scott. “Romantic Circles.” Dec. 2006. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Jamwal, Trivikrama Kumari. “The London School of Journalism.” London School of Journalism.             Jan. 2005. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

Juwayriyah Siddiqui. “Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known.” Prezi. 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 23    Mar. 2016.

Matlak, Richard E.. “Wordsworth’s Lucy Poems in Psychobiographical Context”. PMLA 93.1             (1978): 46–65. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Woof, Pamela. “The “lucy” Poems: Poetry of Mourning”. The Wordsworth Circle 30.1 (1999):     28–36. Web. 23 Mar. 2016

Wordsworth, William. Selected Poems and Prefaces. Ed. Jack Stillinger. Boston, MA: Houghton          Mifflin Company, 1965. Print.





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